thirtysomething

Season 1 Episode 11

Therapy

0
Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Jan 12, 1988 on ABC
8.7
out of 10
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14 votes
1

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Episode Summary

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Elliot and Nancy seek professional help for their troubled marriage; Michael finds it hard to keep it a secret.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Elliot & Nancy go to therapy which quickly becomes the talk of the group and Michael has his own "secret" to spill...well someone else's secret to spill, which gets him in trouble.moreless

    9.5
    This may just be a myth that's been lightly passed around, but I heard that some marriage counselors made their patients watch this episode in which Nancy & Elliot decide to try marriage counseling. Elliot is obviously against it, Nancy wants to pretend it's just to "explore the dynamics" of their relationship, but (and this is where the show is so true to life) the knowing looks exchanged between the "group" shows that no one is buying it. Nancy & Elliot have been in trouble for a while and everyone knows it. This also sets up a small but important plot device/character quirk that would reappear for the rest of the show. Michael has a big mouth. A REALLY big mouth. Big secrets, little secrets, he can't keep a one! And it's not just telling his wife the things he knows (which is to be expected) it's telling EVERYONE! This was briefly alluded to when he told Hope, in a round about way, that Elliot had had an affair, but here, it becomes a bigger issue, with 2 secrets coming out. The source of this pecadillo is never explored, which is fine, but it's really something that is revisited in future episodes and is funny in that it's never "resolved". Michael never stops being a blabber mouth!

    So Elliot & Nancy go to a marriage counselor. Hope & Michael find out and Michael blabs to Melissa, who blabs to Gary who calls Elliot because one of Gary's elementary school friends is now a marriage counselor. (And believe it or not, this "convenient" plot point, does not seem contrived). So they go and it's so real. Anyone who has ever been in therapy with a spouse will know how on the money these scenes are, right down to the first one. They are blandly recounting the "stats" of their lives, how many kids, how long they've been married, their careers. Then it gets a little tenser, then it gets a little more uncomfortable, suddenly someone is crying, someone is yelling, someone is trying to explain themselves but the other person keeps interrupting, it's just so authentic that it's unsettling. So Michael finds out that Ellyn has a tattoo on her rear end from when she was 16 & that her boyfriend doesn't know. This is blabbed when the three guys are playing basketball. While they are playing the discussion turns to how the experts, the doctors, etc. are all the same age as they are and how can this be? Where are the grownups, which is another thing that anyone in their 30's, especially from that generation or the one that followed, can relate to.

    Nancy makes a pretty profound statement saying that sexually she just wants "to be left alone" sometimes and that after taking care of 2 kids all day, it's easy to forget she is a sexual person & she needs help changing gears, which Elliot doesn't understand. He wants things to be spiced up, to be exciting again. When he comes home, before a get together at Hope & Michael's, he finds that his wife has gotten rid of the kids, has champagne & is dressed pretty provocatively. But he can't get into it. Later, after the get together, she makes more forward sexual advances, at which point he criticizes her for not shaving her legs and the moment is gone. She explains to the therapist how she did what he wanted and it wasn't enough for him. Elliot becomes defensive when the therapist questions why, if he says he was turned on and Nancy is trying to spice things up, he didn't respond to her. Again, it's just amazing how true to life this is.

    At this get together at the Steadman's, is where the crap hits the fan. Because Michael realizes that it's not just Gary & Elliot that know about Ellyn's tattoo, Melissa and Nancy know too! And when it comes to light, in front of Ellyn's boyfriend, Ellyn is of course, furious, since she swore Michael to secrecy. The next moment is so great, because when Hope is in the kitchen comforting Elly, who is devestate and Michael cautiously approaches them to apologize and make things right, it's not a wordy "How could you" thing or a big make up thing, it's Ellyn punching him, really hard, square in the gut and him about to fall down. She leaves, he's trying to recover, scene ends. It's actually really funny.

    Later on, it's Sunday morning and the Weston's are hanging at home, Nancy reading the paper, Elliot trying but the kids keep getting in the way. Elliot does a surprising thing by taking the kids out for the day and telling nancy to stay at home, enjoy the quiet and do something good for herself. She doesn't seem to know what to do at first, but then relishes the solitude.

    Later, he's back with the kids, she thanks him for the the time alone & he says he hasn't given her much else lately. It's a very sweet, romantic moment and they embrace. That should be the end of it. But it's not.

    The last scene is Elliot & Nancy in bed, having just made love. She's asleep next to him and he's just lying there for a moment, before he looks at her, picks up his book and starts to read and you can tell, from the look on Elliot's face, his look of apathy and disinterest, that this is not going to be a "happily ever after" story...not in the near future. That's another thing that makes it all so real. "Our marriage is in trouble, we went to counseling, we both made some overtures towards reconciliation, but that doesn't really change anything..." that's real life.

    There's a story I've heard Timothy Busfield tell, (this is paraphrased of course!) that the producers originally wanted him for the role of Gary, the college professor who is struggling to stay a kid forever and duck all responsibilities, while chasing women. Timothy Busfield said he told the producers something like it had been so long since he had been single, he really didn't understand Gary's character or his motivations and didn't think he could do it. But then he asked to read for Elliot because "busting up a marriage, that I can do!" and it turns out he was right!

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Timothy Busfield

Timothy Busfield

Elliot Francis Weston

Polly Draper

Polly Draper

Ellyn Warren

Mel Harris

Mel Harris

Hope Murdoch Steadman

Peter Horton

Peter Horton

Gary Sheperd

Melanie Mayron

Melanie Mayron

Melissa Steadman

Ken Olin

Ken Olin

Michael Steadman

Marshall Herskovitz

Marshall Herskovitz

Dr. Nicholson [uncredited]

Guest Star

Terry Kinney

Terry Kinney

Steve Woodman

Recurring Role

Faith Ford

Faith Ford

Janine

Recurring Role

Courtney Gebhart

Courtney Gebhart

Carla

Recurring Role

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